Longform

THE TRAGEDY OF ERIC TAYLOR

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"I've experienced a lot of catastrophes," Olivas said. Indeed, she had been held at gunpoint by a robber at the shelter the summer before. But "this was a sick, gut-ugly feeling."
A neighbor to the shelter has claimed she heard Taylor shouting, "Save me." That may have been the case. But Olivas couldn't make out any words. She ran to get Sam Medulla, another staffer on duty.

Medulla did not know Taylor well, and he didn't recognize him at the door because Taylor's head was completely shaved. No one had ever seen him that way before. Medulla thought it was a stranger banging on the door, so he told him to go away.

The house shook with Taylor's pounding. When Eva looked back at the door, she saw a fist fly through the window and strike Medulla in the jaw. She grabbed a phone in the hall to dial 911. By the time she had punched the last digit, Taylor was inside the hallway, "like a cartoon of a man crashing through a door. It was like a Freddy Krueger event. It was powerful. You could not believe the feeling that was in this house. It was just force, uncontrollable force that was called up. I knew one of us was going to die."

Medulla wrestled free of Taylor's grasp. Olivas dropped the phone and ran out the back door without ever saying anything into the receiver. But Glendale police operators recorded an extended unearthly scream that seemed like a release of pure id, and Taylor shouting, "You bastard, you bastard." Then the scream started again, followed by banging and slamming and what sounds like, "Ohhh! . . . Jesus Christ! I want you! . . . Help! . . . Fuck Satan!"

Taylor rebounded through the house, tearing doors in half with apparently superhuman strength. Blood spattered on the ceilings, on walls, on light switches and the floor. "It was a blood bath," Olivas said when she eventually came back in.

Taylor burst into a bedroom where two 10-year-old twin boys slept, grabbed one by the neck and began slapping him. The children said that he was screaming "Hallelujah," and something about the Miami Dolphins. He woke the child's twin brother, who was asleep in the next bed, and sat on him. Neither child was seriously hurt, though paramedics later found Taylor's blood even in their ears. With his newly shaved head and his face covered with blood, Taylor was so unrecognizable and so out of character that the children later refused to believe it had been him.

At 2:33 a.m., Glendale police sergeant Brian France was speeding down Glendale Avenue to provide back-up assistance at the Bunkhouse. As he fishtailed north onto 51st Avenue, he glimpsed Taylor in his rearview mirror, walking down the center of the five-lane street. He called the police dispatcher as he made a U-turn, to ask if this could be the subject from the Bunkhouse. The officers who were already at the Bunkhouse responded that they needed him there.

France radioed back, "He's trying to two-forty some guy in the middle of the street," using the police code for an assault in progress.

A truck driver on his way home from work had stopped for a red light. Suddenly, the driver's-side door of his old Jeep jerked open, and he was looking into Taylor's enraged face.

Taylor said nothing, but grabbed the driver (who has asked not to be identified) by his jacket and tried to yank him out of the car. The driver had an automatic handgun on the seat next to him for protection, and he grabbed it, but Taylor wrestled it away, jumped back and pointed it at him.

"I'm gonna shoot you, I'm gonna kill you," he said to the driver. And then, the driver reports, "His hand jerked back like he was expecting a recoil." Because the safety was on, the gun did not fire.

France pulled his police cruiser in back of the Jeep, stood behind his car door and shouted, "Glendale police."

Taylor turned and slowly circled toward the police car. France saw the gun in Taylor's right hand, and shouted for him to drop it.

France retreated to the back of his car to use the trunk as a shield, and shouted again for Taylor to drop the gun. Instead, Taylor stopped, raised his arm and pointed it straight at him. France shot twice, striking Taylor in the chest. Taylor just flinched, lowered his arm, and came at France again. He muttered a single word: "Motherfucker."

France retreated again to the far side of his car trunk. He couldn't tell if Taylor still had the gun, but since Taylor was still advancing on him, he fired twice more. Taylor kept on. France raised his aim and fired for the last time.

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Michael Kiefer